We will be departing from Vienna on 12/26 and have about one week to spend in Bavaria and would also like to go to Switzerland - the Gimmelwald area just sounds too wonderful to miss - we are not skiers and just want to absorb the atmosphere of the Alps though the idea of sledding is nice - we will have a car that we are picking up in Munich on 12/27 - have concerns about travel in area during wintertime - will we be okay driving, will we be able to get to Gimmelwald and other areas this time of year - we have to make our way to Frankfurt or Koln to return rental car and catch a train to Amsterdam on 1/2 or 1/3. We are already on information overload from guidebooks and internet searches, but can't seem to find anything that helps us answer concerns about travel in Alps during this time of year...thanks
You can get up to date information such as road conditions, weather, traffic, alpine passes status etc... from the TCS website (tcs.ch The Swiss equivalent of the AAA) under inforoute/Verkehrsinfo. They have good interactive maps. In Italien, German, and French only but Google translate does a fine job.
There's not really any reason to go to Switzerland. Austria and southern Bavaria are full of great Alpine areas, you would simply be traveling far out of your way to see more of the same for a lot more money. The Berner Oberland area of Switzerland is a full day's drive from Munich, and you would need to take at least one mountain pass near Luzern, or take an even longer detour via Bern. And Gimmelwald itself? I'm scratching my head why Mr. Steves devotes an entire chapter to this unremarkable town, albeit an unremarkable town in a remarkable area. Frankfurt or Köln are another full day's drive from the Berner Oberland, through some of the most congested traffic in Switzerland and Germany. And these drives usually aren't very scenic in the winter, because the atmosphere is usually damp and overcast. For the Alps in the winter, if you stay on the Autobahn networks that run through the valleys, you'll be fine unless you're actively driving during a snow storm. Only the non-Autobahn mountain passes can be tricky at that time of year, but they're easily avoidable with a little planning.
Thanks, Tom Exactly the info I was seeking - we'll plan to stick more closely to Bavaria area so we don't spend so much time driving. Do you have any 'shouldn't miss' areas in Bavaria or suggested routes to drive from this area to Frankfurt that would be more scenic - we are planning to stop in Rothenberg overnight on way to Frankfurt.
My personal favorite towns in the Bavarian and western Austrian Alps are Oberstdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Erhwald, Rosenheim, and Lech am Arlberg (although the last one is pretty expensive and requires mountain pass driving to reach). Other people are also fond of Mittenwald (was only there very briefly), Berchesgaden (never been), and Oberamergau (really in the Bavarian pre-Alps, not the Alps themselves). As for scenic routes to Frankfurt... at that time of year, scenery is not a given. The weather is almost perpetually overcast between late October and March, and visibility is low. You could get lucky and have clear day, or you might be able to see little except the road in front of you. That being said, the most scenic route from southern Bavaria to Frankfurt is probably to take A8 towards Stuttgart, then A81 to Heilbronn. From Heilbronn, follow the Neckar river valley from Bad Wimpfen to Heidelberg, then from Heidelberg, take A5 to Frankfurt. Traffic can be awful on some stretches, however, particularly around Stuttgart. Some towns worth visiting include Bad Wimpfen, Hirschhorn, Heidelberg, Weinheim, Heppenheim and Darmstadt. If the weather cooperates, the way offers some very nice views of mountains, castles, towns, churches and as previously mentioned, the Neckar river valley. However, at that time of year, it could just as easily be foggy for the entire trip. Rothenburg does NOT lie along this route, but there are any number of good substitutes, unless you really need a town loaded with trinket shops.
Kate: You're trying to take on a lot of travel in a very short time. And the weather's not very predictable in the Winter. My suggestion is to travel by train from city to city. If the weather permits, you can rent a car for day trips. It takes the pressure off you to maintain a rather frantic travel pace, because Amsterdam via Switzerland is quite a long way from Vienna. (I've done it.) I would suggest stopping at Innsbruck for incredible alpine scenery and it's an easy train ride from Vienna and back up to Munich. Don't forget that gasoline is in the $9 range at this time. It's a deal breaker for many traveling long distances.
Tom's route on the Neckar isn't bad. Bad Wimpfen isn't that far from Rothenburg.